As technology advances, it creates numerous avenues for getting things done. We’re working on multiple projects and performing various tasks all at the same time—but what are the results? How much attention are we giving to each of our tasks? Are we really being that productive? According to a study on distracted drivers, multitasking is a myth, it was revealed that the brain does not perform two or more tasks at once—something we like to believe it can do when we multitask. Instead, the brain actually performs these multiple tasks very quickly in a sequential order. This “attention switching” gives us the false feeling of doing more in less time.
The trick to multitasking is to give yourself enough time to focus on one thing rather than believing you are doing two things at the same time. Here are some simple steps that you can follow daily in order to improve your multitasking skills and successfully complete multiple projects by their deadlines.
Step 1: Create a Timeline, but ‘Go with the Flow’
Avoid worrying about the assignments you won’t be able to finish and map out a timeline. Plan ahead to organize your tasks in a logical order either by difficulty, deadline, or priority. While foresight will give you a better idea of where to put your focus throughout the workday, don’t let it be set in stone. A manager or colleague may ask you to switch gears for a moment. Rather than let this distract you, readjust your timeline accordingly without overlooking your main priorities.
Step 2: Be Realistic
It would be ideal if we could diligently complete all our projects in one day, but sometimes this just isn’t realistic. In reality, rather than doing two things at once, we are switching our attention on and off from one task to another. While the brain attempts to juggle multiple assignments, it must also juggle the focus and attention to each task; this results in a reaction time or delay. These delays may be a few tenths of a second or more. That may not seem like a lot, but they do add up. To avoid such delays, be honest about what you can’t do and give yourself ample time to focus on one thing at a time before moving on.
Step 3: Avoid Distractions
Handling multiple tasks is a distracting feat on its own. It’s important to understand your company policy and make adjustments to limit distractions throughout your day. Focus on what you can control in your workspace. We can’t always avoid coworkers trying to reach us, but we can request time alone to focus on an assignment. We can’t always ignore clients in need of service, but we may be able to schedule a period of our day to handle phone calls and emails. Turning off your phone, minimizing your email window, or simply closing your door can improve concentration and, in turn, better your chances at finishing your to-dos.
Step 4: Delegate or Ask for Help
Knowing where you can use an extra hand is a great way to cut time. List your everyday tasks, such as returning phone calls, writing content, uploading content, filing, etc. Which of these activities are simple enough for you to assign to someone else? Which of them require your expertise? For instance, you may be able to hand filing duties to an intern, but are unable to delegate writing content because you are the only expert on the subject. This step will play a huge role in decreasing stress and increasing productivity.
Working on multiple projects and tasks does not mean you have to do them at the same time. Planning ahead, understanding each project, and giving yourself time are all keys to reaching deadlines. For more general work tips, try the KnowledgeCity courses: Strategic Thinking and Problem Solving. Get started today with a FREE TRIAL.